Monthly Archives: June 2013

knitting through the generations

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I finished knitting a new sweater the Sunday before last. This wool is from my neighbor down the street, that I told you about a few months back. This sweater was a long time in the making as I had to knit it twice. Yes, twice. The pattern is written so that you knit the front, then the back, then each sleeve. And if you’ve been knitting for a while too, you would probably have been just as disappointed that you had to knit four separate pieces. There are so many knitting patterns now where you knit the front and back as one continuous piece and combine it all with the sleeves so that it’s basically knit as one big piece. So believing that I really knew what I was doing in the knitting world, I decided to knit it from the bottom up, front and back together and add in the sleeves and work my way combining them right on through to the shoulders. Then I tried it on. As it turns out, I don’t know as much about rewriting knitting patterns as I had thought. The sweater fit horribly. Sometimes it’s very good to be humbled.

My mom taught me to sew as a child and when I’d sew a seam that was slightly askew, or a dart that didn’t taper just perfectly, she’d head straight for the seam ripper and rip it out and have me do it again until I’d gotten it right. She wasn’t mean about it in anyway, it was more of just a calm insistence that every seam must be correct or you are going to end up sewing something that doesn’t fit well at all. And isn’t that a big point of making your own clothes? So they fit you much better than anything you can buy?

So with that in mind, I ripped the whole darn thing out and started over. This time following the pattern writers exact directions. I sized down a needle size and a pattern size to get a better fit. And I knit all four separate pieces. Now it fits almost great…except my mom’s voice keeps calling me from the back of my head saying, ‘you’d better redo the top part of those sleeves again’. They just aren’t fitting into the arm holes correctly. That can be fixed pretty easily.
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Now while it was my mom who taught me about sewing and the correct fit of a garment, it was my grandma who taught me how to knit. Growing up she would have me down to her and my grandpa’s house one weekend a month. And each month she’d have a new project for me to work on. We made all sorts of different things together, from Christmas ornaments, to mushroom prints, to needlepoint, to rug hooking, and of course knitting. It was in her green floral print chairs that I first held those straight metal knitting needles so incredibly awkwardly. She was a big believer in the idea of keeping your hands busy. She too sat night after night in front of the tv with some sort of hand craft project to do, usually hand quilting. She believed in the social aspect of craft, meeting monthly with both her Quilt Guild and her Lady Fingers group (love that name for a craft group!). Had this been her day and age, she would have been so excited by all the quilting and knitting and general crafting being shared online!

She was a patience and sweet teacher to me. To everyone. Aside from my parents she was my greatest influence in life. She taught us to keep my fingers busy, to keep learning, to travel and explore, to enjoy live theater, to eat your leafy greens, to appease your sweet tooth, but mostly she taught us by example to be kind and generous to everyone you meet.

She passed away peacefully, with my mom at her side, the same day as I finished this sweater. I love this sweater. I love that the wool comes from a short walk away, from a very nice family (well from that families sheep!), I love the cable pattern on the front. I love that it completely softened up after blocking. And I love that it will always remind me of what my grandma and my mom have taught me. People don’t last forever, but what they can teach you can be passed down from generation to generation and in that way their spirit will always be alive and with you.

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getting eggs & play in a surprising way

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We’re getting eggs again. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it much to you, but we’ve been frustrated chicken keepers for well over a year. We just haven’t been getting any eggs! In thinking that our existing six were just old and done (they are 3 & 6 years old) we got six new chicks over the winter. Still once winter solstice hit and the days began to grow longer and other chicken keeping friends were starting to get eggs, we were starting to get even more frustrated.
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Then we’d occasionally start to see broken eggshells…ah ha, we had an egg eater! Turns out we had two. Notice I said ‘had’. Fueled by a marathon watching of this addictive show (particularly this scene) Scott culled the flock of our two Americanas last Friday while the kids and I were out. These birds not only were eating eggs but just causing overall unrest in the coop and laying nearly unedible eggs. They terrorized the new chicks and just overall added more drama than we needed to coop life. Within three hours of dispatching the two troublemakers we had our first egg. The next day we had four eggs, the next two and so on and so forth. The chicks are starting to lay and the older hens are laying every couple of days.
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Needless to say we’re very happy now. It was a tremendous relief to see all those eggs come in after killing those two. It’s not easy on Scott to harvest chickens, we don’t enjoy it. So to see that in doing so resulted in us having a productive amount eggs again was great relief.

In related news, our two boys had developed a really crazy energy about them. Constantly fighting, complaining about being bored, happy about nothing. I knew some of this was related to end of school emotions, but I wondered if there was anything I could do to change the dynamic. And no, I didn’t ‘harvest the boys’, but I did ‘harvest’ their toys. They share a room, it’s a pretty big room, but it was getting pretty chaotic in there.

They’ve never been much for playing with toys. I know some kids get deep in imaginative play with certain things, but my boys never much have. Apart from a few trucks or cars and legos, they spend the majority of their time outside with exploring with sticks or throwing balls or what have you. Despite that, the toy build up from birthdays and Christmas’ and party favors was getting out of control. Being an astute Montessori parent, I wondered if the chaos of their living space was bringing chaos to their lives.

So one day while they were at school, I brought in two big boxes and I boxed everything up. Really, apart from their Lego collection and a few other toys, their room is pretty bare. I left a small dresser that’s full of art supplies, one shelf of Legos, their foos ball table under the bunk beds, their clothes dresser and their bookcase. To me, it’s beautiful in there! I was curious to see how the boys would react when they got home and you wouldn’t believe this, but they played for a couple completely peaceful hours. No fighting, no complaining whatsoever!

My oldest was immediately drawn to his Legos again. In fact he actually imagined an entire skit in his head with them and has the goal of filming a movie this summer! (never has he done anything like that!) And my younger son, along with my daughter got out their paints and paper and spent the afternoon painting. Bliss! Bliss I tell you.

So there you have it, if you want eggs, get rid of some chickens. And if you want kids to play, take away their toys! Who would have thought?

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Patching Holes

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This winter I’ve spent a handful of evenings on the couch, not knitting, but patching. I go in and out of favor in terms of patching my two boys jeans. Last fall, when school began I ordered them all new jeans. When December rolled around there were holes ripped in almost every single pair. These are rough and tumble boys, these boys of mine. With Christmas in full swing there was no time to be had patching, so I ordered them a whole new round of jeans. They had holes in them within 6 weeks. This time I took to patching. It seems rather silly in a way to spend an hour patching a hole in a $10 pair of pants. It’s so much simpler to buy them, but as I’m sure you well know, there is a worldwide price to pay in buying cheap clothes, so if I have extra time on my hands I enjoy patching them. If not for thrift or political statement then for the beauty of a little handmade on their factory made pants.
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My hand knit socks had taken a beating on the heels. Unfortunately for me, these socks had been sitting in the mending basket all winter and now that the weather has turned warm, I finally found time to patch them. Since I hand knit them, there was no way I was going to toss these into the trash without trying my hand at fixing them. I had never repaired knit socks before, but I just retraced my original knitting stitches with a new strand of sock yarn and I think I found success. I’ll be all set for cozy autumn weather next October.
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Patching things in this day and age seems sort of a luxury as it takes time. And not too many people have that sort of time on their hands. Usually I don’t. And I think a fair amount of people, maybe the majority of people, would rather go out shopping than sitting under a bright light with a needle and thread. I can understand that. And at certain times, I feel that way too. But most of the time I really don’t like either on-line shopping or in person shopping and I would much, much prefer to sit at home on my couch and repair what I already have. It’s a satisfying feeling to use your mind and your hands to fix and mend a broken thing that no amount of shopping could ever recreate.

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